Tuesday October 9
LAS VEGAS – When I first moved to this desert oasis in 1998, the place to go for the opening football numbers was the Stardust.
They would put up the NCAA & NFL numbers for the following weekend’s action after the Sunday Night Football game (on ESPN at the time) kicked off. It was the place to be to see the openers and follow the line moves as they were announced over the loudspeaker. Sadly (at least for old souls like yours truly, even though I wasn’t around for the days of Bob Martin putting out the first lines at the Churchill Downs standalone sports book on the Strip – where the Planet Hollywood now stands – and the Union Plaza downtown), that was around the time the offshore books were taking on a stronger prominence and then other books in town starting putting up lines earlier.
Nowadays, the Wynn Las Vegas puts up their NCAA openers around 3 p.m. Pacific Time and the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (formerly the Hilton) puts up NFL lines at 4:30 p.m., but it’s a new era, not the least of which is the fact that instead of one line being recognized as the “Vegas opener” you now have people also checking the offshore openers on their computers and even other Vegas openers on their smartphone apps at Cantor Gaming and William Hill.
And it’s hard to even call these lines “openers” anymore because Cantor put up lines on all NFL games through Week 16 back in May with the Golden Nugget and LVH putting up college “Games of the Year” up in June.
Having said all that, it’s still interesting to me to track the line movements even though it covers a longer range of time. The advantage to that is we can more clearly see how the oddsmakers and public view their matchups differently than they did over the summer.
Let’s look at this weekend for example. In the Red River Shootout (I’m old-school, I still call it that): the Golden Nugget opened it Oklahoma -6 and the LVH had it -5.5 When it re-opened on Sunday at the Wynn it was just Oklahoma -1.5 with offshore opening at -3.5 and it’s settled at -3 as of early Tuesday morning.
Notre Dame opened -5 vs. Stanford at the Golden Nugget in June and -6.5 at the LVH but is now up over a touchdown at -9. The Golden Nugget didn’t have an early line on LSU-South Carolina, but the LVH had LSU -11.5. With LSU losing to Florida last week and South Carolina undefeated, the Wynn “opened” it at LSU -6 this past Sunday. Offshores went with -4 but now it’s down below a field goal at -2.5.
The NFL is generally assumed to have tighter lines, but that’s not necessarily the case when you look at how perceptions change over a few months’ time. In the Thursday night game, Cantor opened the Steelers -1.5 back in May and the LVH went with -3 in their “NFL Games of the Year” but now the Steelers are laying -5.5.
The Jets were a whopping -7.5 vs. the Colts in May at Cantor Gaming but now that number is right around -3. The Falcons were -6.5 vs. the Raiders back in May but now it’s over a touchdown at -8.5. The Patriots were -6 vs. the Seahawks but are now just laying just over a field goal at -3.5. The Cardinals were -2.5 vs. the Bills but are now -4.5. And lastly, the Packers were installed as a 1.5-point road favorite at Houston in the Sunday night game at Cantor while the LVH went with -2.5, but now we’re seeing the Texans -3.5.
If you feel you can predict how teams are going to do in the early weeks of the season and cause adjustments in the lines, the time to shop for numbers is over the summer in Vegas.
UPS update: For the uninitiated, this refers to the Ugly Puppy Society (UPS) discussed in this column (http://www.predictionmachine.com/NFL-Week-3-Lines-Value) three weeks ago. It advises to consider playing ugly underdogs such as double-digit dogs and home underdogs – or at least tread carefully when looking to buck these trends/systems. Home underdogs were 3-2 ATS in Week 5, capped off by the Jets’ point-spread covering loss to the Texans on Monday night. I grade all the ATS results against the ViewFromVegas Consensus Closing Lines and even though the line went to 10 at several books, the majority of Vegas books closed at 9.5 so I’m not counting that as a double-digit underdog, but if my mentioning this trend here helped you grab a winner, that’s all I can hope to do. Without counting that as a cover, double-digit dogs are a losing 2-4 ATS this season but expect that to improve down the road as there are no big dogs this week. There are three home puppies this week: Titans +5.5 vs. Steelers (Thursday), Browns +2.5 vs. Bengals, and Seahawks +3.5 vs. Patriots.
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.